Phillips looks to Sheringham model in attempt to extend career at the top

Phillips was Villa's match-winner for the second time in three games as he followed up his crucial strike in the derby over Birmingham 10 days ago by grabbing the only goal against Burnley in the Carling Cup on Tuesday.

David O'Leary's £750,000 summer signing from Southampton is not resting on his laurels and still expects Milan Baros to come straight back into the side once he recovers from an Achilles problem. Facing stiff competition from Juan Pablo Angel and Luke Moore for the other striking spot, Phillips is determined to stake a strong claim. In the long run, the 32-year-old is hoping to emulate the example of Sheringham who is still proving a Premiership force at the age of 39 with West Ham.

Phillips said: "It is important to try and get a settled side. People say, 'Who do you prefer to play alongside?' and I wouldn't answer a question like that.

"As long as I am playing it doesn't matter and that's all I try and focus on, to strive to perform and keep my place.

"We have quality centre-forwards here. When we get Milan Baros back, he is one who is maybe a certainty to start every game because of what he came here for [£6m from Liverpool].

"It's up to the other three of us to fight for our places. As long as I am in the team scoring goals, hopefully I'll stake a claim." Phillips believes the back-up staff available to players now can be of benefit in trying to extend their careers into the mid-30s and beyond.

He said: "I feel I can do that. I look at someone like Teddy Sheringham and he is still producing the goods at 39. If I can play until then, it would be fantastic.

"There is no reason why I can't. I look after myself. I think that is the key now. We've got so many people at the club that make sure you look after yourself, there is no way of going wrong.

"I think that is a general thing in the Premier League. It wasn't like it in my early days. Dieticians? You'd never heard of them.

"Now it is all laid on a plate for you so you'd be daft not to make use of it, especially for someone coming to the back end of their career. It could extend it.

"As long as I am still enjoying it, as long as I am still producing the goods, I'll go on as long as I can." Phillips is starting to show why O'Leary tried to sign him two years ago from Sunderland at the same time as Gavin McCann and Thomas Sorensen moved from the Black Cats to Villa.

O'Leary's assistant, Roy Aitken, paid tribute to the striker after his display against Burnley.

"Kevin Phillips is a goalscorer," Aitken said. "That's what we have brought him here to do. It is great to have someone like Kevin in the team. That makes the difference. That's why your strikers are so important to you. With Kevin in those [critical] situations, nine times out of 10 it will produce a goal."

Phillips is more concerned with helping Villa climb away from the relegation zone after experiencing life in that area of the table with his former club.

He said: "We wanted to build on the derby win over Birmingham and didn't do that. This is another chance to start a little run.

"It wasn't the most convincing of wins against Burnley but we are in the hat for the next round and a win brings confidence.

"The manager has been frustrated by the injuries but we have strength and quality in depth and it's time for us to pull together."

Baros is back in light training and could come into contention for Monday's match at Manchester City while Aaron Hughes is expected to have recovered from a slight reaction to his hernia operation in time to play in that game.

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